What makes a good leader? And how confident are you, especially when it comes to your judgment and abilities in the face of uncertainty?
Self-confidence is the cornerstone of becoming a successful leader and manager at work. And that means that it’s vital to do everything you can to build your confidence and self-worth — at work and in yourself.
But, before you learn how to be more confident so you can build your leadership skills, you need to know what self-confidence really is, first.
Self-confidence isn’t simply about how you appear. And it’s not about how you act. It’s about having trust in yourself…both in your abilities and in your judgment.
When you’re truly confident in yourself and your abilities, then you’re:
- Not thrown off by the unexpected or seemingly daunting tasks.
- Open to risk and failure.
- Willing to face your fears and courageously move forward.
- Honest with yourself and others about your fears and weaknesses.
- Willing to be vulnerable.
- Able to act courageously in the face of fear.
Self-confidence doesn’t mean that you don’t fear anything. You’re human — like the rest of us. But you have faith in your abilities and trust your judgment. And that’s the key to self-confidence so you can unlock the qualities of a good leader.
You believe that you can figure things out no matter the circumstances, even though you know that you could be wrong. And even if you are wrong, you trust that you’ll learn from your mistakes and do better next time.
In fact, you trust that you’re capable of being a bigger person and admitting that you needed to learn something.
So, you courageously move forward despite your fears of the unknown and the potential for failure.
What self-confidence isn’t, however, is arrogance and many people confused it as such.
Arrogance cultivates a closed mind and an unwillingness to learn and grow from mistakes and from other people. Moreover, arrogant people are often unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes in the first place and they have trouble apologizing.
Self-confidence necessitates that you’re willing to change course and change opinions. It requires you to listen to others and take their view point into account without feeling attacked.
And it also means that you’re honest about your weaknesses and failures so that you can learn, grow, and be better — which includes apologizing when necessary.
True self-confidence requires integrity(that’s missing from arrogant people). It requires that you’ve adopted a growth-oriented mentality. That’s what helps you to admit your weaknesses so that you can strengthen and plan around them, as well as take risks and be willing to fail.
Here’s the thing about this mentality: it’s required to become self-confident as it creates more self-confidence.
Self-confidence is the cornerstone to the qualities of a good leader. After all, who would want to follow you if you don’t trust yourself, your abilities, and your judgment?
Leadership isn’t about having a title next to your name, it’s about inspiring others to follow you and having the respect of those you’re leading. To be a highly effective leader, you must:
- Have the respect and trust of those you’re leading.
- Have a clear, simple vision that others can understand and get behind.
- Take calculated risks (and not allow fear of failure to stop you).
- Recognize the unique value of differing opinions and the skills of others (without fearing them or feeling attacked).
- Be nimble and willing to change course in the face of new, better information.
- Make difficult (sometimes controversial) choices.
- Accept that respect is better than being liked.
- Communicate clearly and effectively.
- Learn from your mistakes (and then let go).
- Challenge common assumptions and face conflict.
All of the above leadership qualities and traits demand that you be self-confident.
With that said, here are 5 surprising ways you can be more confident and build up your leadership skills at work.
1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Leadership is uncomfortable. You’ll be challenged, will occasionally fail in epic ways (and publicly), and won’t always be liked. And you’ll be forced to make difficult decisions where obvious answers aren’t available.
If you want to stay confident and not get bogged down in this negativity, you must process your emotions, face your fears, and challenge your negative thoughts. None of this is comfortable.
But here’s where it gets interesting: facing your fears, challenging your negative thinking, and dealing with your emotions creates more self-confidence because you’re being courageous.
Courage is nothing more than:
- Doing something even though you fear failure.
- Challenging thoughts that have previously held you back.
- Acknowledging uncomfortable emotions.
- Being vulnerable.
Get comfortable with the fact that you’ll be forever uncomfortable. It will make you a much more effective leader.
2. Give yourself permission
If you want to become more self-confident at work and as a leader, then you need to give yourself permission to fail, to fear, and to let go. Otherwise, you’ll have a difficult time as a leader because your self-confidence will get battered and bruised along the way, making you less effective as you go.
Being willing to fail requires you to face your fears. And both require that you let go of worrying too much over them. Do you need to plan for contingencies? Of course. But there’s such a thing as over-planning.
Learn when to let go and move forward. And then be sure that you truly let go. Otherwise, fear will eat you alive.
And let go of trying to control the things that you can’t. Things such as:
- Other people’s approval of you and your decisions.
- Being liked.
- Expectations — in the sense that you need to be nimble.
3. Change your language
Be mindful of how you talk to and about yourself. Self-confidence is ultimately about your mentality. It’s about how you feel and what you believe about yourself and your abilities. And much of that is determined by how you speak to and about yourself.
This means that you must make a concerted effort to talk to yourself positively. Unfortunately, your mind is pre-wired to think negatively and that results in lots of negative self-talk.
You know, that voice within you that constantly questions, berates, and criticizes (I call that voice Negative Nellie).
The good news is that you can counter Negative Nellie through regular positive affirmations. For this to work, you need to be realistic (your brain will know if you’re lying) and speak in the third person.
So, instead of telling yourself “You can do this”, say to yourself, “You’ve done something similar before and can do it again.”
Self-talk isn’t the only way you self-sabotage — how you describe yourself matters and can hurt you. Do you puff yourself up or describe yourself as less than you are, thinking that you’re being humble?
In both situations, there’s a problem: you’re being dishonest and deep down, you know it.
Be honest yet positive in how you describe yourself. Own who you are, including all your messy weaknesses and all your glorious strengths.
4. Practice being present
Being present in the moment is a developed skill that helps with awareness and stress management. Did you know that it helps with confidence too?
When you’re more aware of your feelings, your thoughts, and your fears, you can deal with them better. And that will increase your self-confidence levels.
What’s even better is that the simple act of labeling your emotions decreases their power over you and diminishes related fears. That’s seriously empowering!
Finally, being mindful isn’t just about self-awareness. There are numerous mindfulness exercises to help you become more aware of others’ emotions.
By paying attention to the people around you and identifying what they’re feeling, you’ll be increasing your social and emotional IQ. That will make you a more intuitive leader and increase your self-confidence!
5. Get clear
Uncertainty breeds self-doubt — a serious confidence killer But clarity begets self-confidence. When you’re clear around who you are, what you want, and why you want it, then you’ll feel good within your own skin. You’ll have an easier time making decisions and simplifying your life.
What do you need to have clarity around? There are 3 main things:
- Your core needs because needy people aren’t exactly confident.
- Your core values and how they motivate you. Values are what bring purpose, meaning, and fulfillment into your life (and are therefore your biggest motivator).
- Your inherent strengths (the things that help you get things done, make things happen, bring people together, and form strong relationships). Using your strengths in ways that you enjoy will keep you motivated and energized — even when things are difficult.
This is primarily about being clear around what gives you meaning and purpose.
Confident leaders understand who they are and what they want and aren’t afraid to go after those things — it’s part of why people are attracted to follow them. Plus, it will motivate you to take action and speak up, further building your self-confidence and leadership skills.
Confidence is a mindset that must be cultivated, strengthened, and maintained through consistent practice. So, use the 5 tips above to build your self-confidence, be a better leader, and make a bigger impact.